Gianni Infantino has revealed FIFA are still considering a plan to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams.
Speaking at the Dubai International Sports Conference, the FIFA president confirmed they were looking into whether it would be possible for some of Qatar’s Gulf neighbors to host some matches.
He repeated it again on Wednesday in a conference on the sport, despite strong opposition from the Qataris who made it clear that they could not afford to do more than a 32-teams World Cup.
Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, has said that he hopes the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be expanded to 48 teams, saying such an expansion is “possible” and “feasible”.
Responding to questions at the Asian Football Confederation’s annual congress in Kuala Lumpur about a possible expansion in 2022, Infantino referred to the 48-team World Cup to be hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico in 2026.
“We have decided … to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup final tournaments from 32 to 48. It will happen in 2026. Will it happen in 2022? You know me. It is possible, it is possible,” he said.
Infantino told the AFC’s national football associations that expanding the 2022 tournament would see the number of Asian countries’ teams competing in qualifying for the World Cup finals rise from 4.5 (four guaranteed and one play-off place) in a 32-nation tournament, to 8.5 for 48.
FIFA voted in 2017 to increase the size of the tournament from 32 to 48 teams starting from 2026 but, since then, Infantino has been considering bringing the change forward to 2022.
“If you think it’s a good thing to have 48 teams in the World Cup, why not try four years before, that’s why we are analyzing whether it’s possible to have 48 teams already in 2022,” Infantino added.
“If we can accommodate some of the neighboring countries in the Gulf region which are very close by to host a few games in the World Cup this could be very beneficial for the region and the entire world.
“There are tensions in this particular region and it’s up to their respective leaders to deal with that but maybe it’s easier to talk about a joint football project than more complicated things.
“If it can help all the people in the Gulf and all the countries in the world develop football and bring a positive message to the world about football, then you should give it a try.”
Qatar was controversially awarded the World Cup in 2010 as, due to its hot climate, the tournament will be held in November and December – during the European domestic football season.
The success of the Qatari bid also prompted allegations of corruption – although a FIFA internal investigation cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing. (Quoted by SKY SPORT)
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